BEIJING: Why Michael Phelps Sleeps With The Fishes


BY ST. JOHN BARNED-SMITH, OLYMPIC CORRESPONDENT: Right, Phawkerites. Late to the party, but hopefully still fashionably so, I come bringing a crash course in the US phenom that is Michael Phelps and Olympic swimming. I’ll be updating you every day until the conclusion of his quest to win eight gold medals at this Olympics. As I’m writing this, Phelps has just attempted his 200-meter freestyle race and the won the semifinals in the 200 meter butterfly. For those of you who didn’t spend their formative years in the pool, here’s a basic rundown of Olympic swimming and Phelps’ quest this the Olympics.

Why He Rocks: Frankly, there’s not much that needs to be said about a typical Phelps swim. He leaps, he streamlines, and then he hauls ass for 50 meters, before executing a lightning fast flip turn, and whipping off the wall. He repeats as necessary until he demolishes his competition. Phelps is the consummate merger of primo genetics and relentless effort. His physical statistics are amazing: he has a wing span of 6 feet, 7 inches, four inches wider than his height (6 ft. 3). Then there are his feet – this kid doesn’t just have big feet, he’s got flippers – his shoe size is a whopping fourteen. Along with his actual physical attributes, his ankles flex almost 90 degrees, so he can flex a straight line with legs from his hips to his toes. Throw in double jointed knees, and a training regimen thatmichaelphelpstime.jpg runs five hours a day, every day of the year including Christmas day, and you’ve got a man who has forged his body into the ultimate swimming machine.

The Stakes: Over the course of the Olympics, Phelps is trying to break Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in one set of the games. His two toughest swims, the 400 individual-medley and the 4×100 freestyle relay, have passed, in which he beat out his American rival Brian Lochte (in the IM) and against the arrogant French, who promised they would “smash” the US. With his 200 meter freestyle today, he’s got five more events that he’s got to win: the 200 meter fly finals, the 4×200 free relay, the 200 meter IM, the 100 meter butterfly, and the 4×100 medley relay.

What It All Means: Besides the finals swims, Phelps is swimming 17 events, going up against the best swimmers from the best teams in the world. He faces all around amazing athletes, but also brilliant specialists. He must stick with, and then hold them off if he will run the table.

Tomorrow: The amazing, incredible, phenomenal 4×100 freestyle recap, as well as the strokes, the suits, and the pool.

NEW YORK TIMES: Phelps Wins Third Gold

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: St. John Barned-Smith first discovered the water when his mom made him take swim lessons as a toddler. He swam on competitive swim teams – sporadically – from 4th grade through his senior year in high school, before walking on the Case Western Reserve Swim team, where he got his ass handed to him on a daily basis. (Seriously, he was the slowest kid there.) Nevertheless, a swimmer for life, he’s been glued to the swimming events of the Olympic games ever since the Thorpedo (Ian Thorpe) became a phenom during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He’s sending these dispatches as a way to destress while writing in the Chicago-based Academy for Alternative Journalism, a paid journalism fellowship which hopes to disprove King Ed about the relevance of the printed word.

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